Rihanna at HP Pavilion. Photo by Alex Stover.
Rihanna shined bright, loud and long Saturday night as San Jose played host to the pop star’s ‘Diamonds’ World Tour, a showcase of the singer’s resume of hits, theatrics and her well-groomed image as one of pop music’s leading provocateurs.
The singer, who emerged as Jay Z’s protege in 2005 and unleashed a string hits that continues to dominate the charts today, showed off the many turns of her career during the nearly two hour performance, from the cute reggae “Pon de Replay” vibe from her early years to the blunt-smoking, tattooed S&M bad girl image she promotes today in magazines and Instagram photos.
Opening in a prayer-like pose dressed in a black cape, Rihanna started with her good-girl look, solemnly singing “Mother Mary” with dancers in modest, neck-to-toe black clothing surrounded by staged ancient Roman décor.
Channeling the hardness from her most recent album Unapologetic, Rihanna moved into her next sequence shedding the cape and singing sexed-up hits including “Birthday Cake” and “Cockiness.” It was all tough and sexy business, complete with crotch grabbing and booty popping, yet withholding mystery as her outfit revealed only the slightest of skin.
As a rock ‘n’ roll motif emerged, RiRi came out in a sexy NASCAR jumpsuit and broke out the air guitar with a rock-ified version of Ginuwine’s R&B hit “Pony” with bursts of fire warming the crowd. Musically, the band and backup singers did most of the heavy lifting until the coke-bottle songstress brought out more hits like “My Love is Your Love” and “Rude Boy.”” This time, dancers reappeared in oversized baseball jerseys, hoop earrings and baseball caps circa 1990s Mary J. Blige.
The good girl gone bad slowed it down in a red-hot dress singing the sensual “Love and Affection” off her latest album, immediately rendering a loud roar from the crowd cheering on her every body roll against the mic stand. Followed by a sequence of fast, high-energy dance dance tracks, complete with lasers. A few minutes into “Where Have You Been” the Barbadian beauty made a tour around the crowd in front of the stage, swiping audience hands and even giving hugs.
As the nearly two-hour show reached its end just before midnight, the crowd didn’t lose energy as Rhianna started her tour’s namesake “Diamonds” in an encore.
“You have truly set the bar for the rest of the tour and I’m not just saying that,” she told the crowd. “I’ve been wanting to come to the Bay for a while and now we can’t wait to come back.”
Despite relying heavily on backup singers (and possibly prerecorded tracks), the unapologetic singer gave us a big, bright, memorable show. And with so many musical merits including several Grammy’s, it’s easy to forget she’s only 25.
Saturday’s show gave us a taste of her multiple music personalities, putting us on a pop hit bender and proving she’s not slowing down anytime soon.